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Community Stakeholders’ Perceptions of Major Factors Influencing Childhood Obesity, the Feasibility of Programs Addressing Childhood Obesity, and Persisting Gaps


Prior research has identified numerous factors contributing to increased rates of childhood obesity. However, few studies have focused explicitly on the experience of community stakeholders in low-income communities. This study sought to capture the perspectives of these on-the-ground experts regarding major factors contributing to childhood obesity as well as gaps in current prevention and control efforts. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 39 stakeholders from different community sectors (e.g., healthcare providers, childcare providers, teachers). Data were drawn from the Massachusetts Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration project, a multi-level, multi-sector intervention designed to reduce childhood obesity being implemented in two low-income communities in Massachusetts. Interviews were conducted at baseline, transcribed, coded using grounded theory approach, and analyzed in NVivo 10.0. The vast majority of stakeholders had recently participated in obesity prevention strategies, and nearly all of them identified gaps in prevention efforts either within their organizations or in the broader community. In addition to factors previously identified in the literature, several themes emerged including the need to change policies to increase physical activity during school, offer healthier snacks in schools and afterschool programs, and increase communication and collaboration within the community in prevention efforts. Community stakeholders can impact the success of interventions by bridging the gap between science and lived experience. The results of this study can guide future research by highlighting the importance of including stakeholders' frontline experiences with target populations, and using information on identified gaps to augment intervention planning efforts.

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